Saturday, February 14, 2009

Looking for Love In All the Right Alleles | Wired Science from Wired.com

Looking for Love In All the Right Alleles | Wired Science from Wired.com

People may naturally be attracted to mates with HLA profiles different from their own, ostensibly guaranteeing the hybrid vigor of their offspring's immune systems -- and also providing a spark that will last through good times and bad.

"Proper age, similar life goals and ideas, education levels -- all of these things have to fit. And on top of that, you need to be biologically compatible," said Tamara Brown, managing director of GenePartner.

But not everyone is convinced that scientists can read the genome of love.

"These kinds of ideas are not as crazy as they often sound, but before you start trying to sell this kind of thing, we'd like to have solid evidence," said Dustin Penn, a behavioral biologist at the Konrad Lorenz Institute for Ethology. "There's some supporting evidence, but it's mixed."

The science of HLA love started with Swiss biologist Claus Wedekind, who in 1995 found that women preferred the smell of T-shirts worn by men with HLA profiles dissimilar to their own. The findings were replicated, and a later study showed that couples with similar profiles were less likely to have children and more likely to cheat on each other.

GenePartner claims to have pushed that research forward. "Is there a specific pattern? That's what we found. That's the main strength of the algorithm," Brown said.

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